'Yes' vote takes lead in Filipino Muslims autonomy poll

Published 24.01.2019 00:03

The "Yes" vote appeared to take the lead on Tuesday in a historic plebiscite on a law that would grant "comprehensive autonomy" to Moro Muslims living in the southern Philippines, according to unofficial results.

The voting took place on Monday in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao Del Sur, and the island provinces of Basilan, Tawi-tawi and Sulu as well as the cities of Cotabato and Isabela.

While the first five provinces are located inside the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the last two cities are located outside of the region.

The plebiscite asked the voters if they wanted to replace the ARMM with the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), in line with the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). Once the bill is ratified, the BARMM will be created.

According to figures of the Cotabato City Plebiscite Board of Canvassers (CPBOC), the vote count has completed in the city and 36,682 "Yes" votes came out of the ballot boxes, while the number of "No" votes stood at 24,994.

The cities of Cotabato and Isabela, which will also become part of the BARMM, were considered critical areas during the campaign. People in the Cotabato City have already started to celebrate the result by taking the street despite the curfew running from the evening hours to morning.

In Maguindanao province, the stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), around 608,000 "Yes" votes and 9,000 "No" votes came out of the boxes. It is also said that in Lanao Del Sur's capital city of Marawi almost all of the votes were cast in favor of the BOL.

BOL, which was signed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in July 2018, will increase legal and economic gains of the Muslims in the region. The law will provide more autonomy than the existing autonomous structure in some areas of Mindanao province and the surrounding islands.

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